History of Soap Flakes


Picture of Soap Flakes bagNo one knows when or where people first made soap. The ancient Romans may have used soap 3,000 years ago. People in France used a rough soap about A.D. 100. Around 700, soapmaking had become a craft in Italy. Spain was a leading soapmaker by 800, and soapmaking began in England about 1200.

In the late 1700's, Nicolas Leblanc, a French scientist, found that lye could be made from ordinary table salt. Following Leblanc's discovery, soap began to be made and sold at prices that almost everyone could afford.

Many early settlers in North America made their own soap. They poured hot water over wood ashes to make the alkali potash. Then they boiled the potash with animal fats in iron kettles to make soap. The soap cleaned well, but much of it was harsh and had a bad odor.

The soap industry in North America began in the early 1800's. Some people collected waste fats from others and made soap in large iron kettles. They poured the soap into large wooden frames for hardening. Then they cut the hardened soap into bars that were sold from door to door. Since the early 1900's, manufacturers have made big improvements in the mildness, color, fragrance, and cleaning ability of soaps.

Picture of Soap Flakes boxThe original maker and inventor of soap flakes, the Lever Brothers (now Unilever), began making soap in 1884 and soap flakes in 1899. Until their invention of soap flakes, washing clothes at home entailed the tedious task of cutting off chips from large hunks of laundry soap for use in creating sudsy water. The new soap flake product was named LUX and was first imported into the United States in 1906.

One year later, the Lever Brothers began manufacturing LUX at a factory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1915 the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency began a tremendously successful advertising campaign that introduced soap flakes to the American public. As the years passed, Unilever produced LUX worldwide using contract manufacturers. In late 2001, Unilever quit the soap flakes business in response to a corporate strategy of focusing on their largest brands.

Dri-Pak Ltd., the only manufacturer of soap flakes in England, had been the European contract manufacturer of LUX for many years while also producing soap flakes for other private label brands as well as their own Dri-Pak Pure Soap Flakes brand.

The soap recipe and manufacturing process have remained the same for over 100 years.

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